VVIP chopper deal: Extradition of arrested middleman could be delayed

October 18, 2013 06:45 pm | Updated November 16, 2021 09:06 pm IST - Milan

The extradition of Guido Haschke (63), the Swiss middleman arrested in Switzerland on Thursday on charges of bribery and corruption in the €560-million VVIP helicopter deal with India could be delayed. Sources close to the AgustaWestland/Finmeccanica investigation and trial in Busto Arsizio near Milan in northern Italy told The Hindu that according to information received by Italian authorities, Mr. Haschke had decided to appeal against the Swiss Federal Court’s decision to extradite him.

Sources in Busto indicated that if extradition proceedings succeed, Mr. Haschke would be produced in court as a key witness in the trial of former AgustaWestland Managing Director Bruno Spagniolini and Giuseppe Orsi, the CEO of its mother company, the Italian armaments giant Finmeccanica.

Their trial opened in Busto Arsizio, an industrial suburb of Milan, in June 2013. Italian authorities decided to go ahead with the trial of Mr. Orsi and Mr. Spagnolini without waiting for the arrest of the other middlemen, since that would mean long delays in the trial because of lengthy extradition proceedings.

Mr. Haschke is one of three middlemen — the other two are Christian Michel and Carlo Gerosa holding Swiss, American and Italian passports — who allegedly conspired with India’s former Air Chief, S.P.Tyagi, his cousins Sanjeev (Julie), Rajeev (Docsa). and Sandeep Tyagi among others, to pay out commissions of €56 million so that AgustaWestland/Finmeccanica could win the VVIP helicopter contract.

Italian sources contend that the CBI has been reluctant and slow to act “despite receiving ample evidence of wrongdoing.” This includes bank statements, wire tapped conversations, bills and other documentation — 1,10,000 pages in all contained in 4 CD-ROMs.

Now, the CBI has filed an FIR citing 13 persons including the Tyagi brothers. “Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa (both alleged middlemen) managed to send €5.6 million through Mohali-based IDS Infotech and Chandigarh-based Aeromatrix Info Solutions Private Ltd to India and kept the remaining amount of about €24.30 million received from AgustaWestland with themselves in the account of IDS Tunisia," the CBI’s First Information Report states.

In several press releases issued in recent weeks AgustaWestland has vigorously denied any wrong doing and declared it was going into arbitration to challenge India’s decision to suspend the delivery of the 9 remaining helicopters, ground the three flying machines already delivered and perhaps even go so far as to black list the company altogether. India has cited the “integrity clause” that outlaws all middlemen in defence contracts.

Mr. Orsi was arrested on charges of international corruption, bribery and billing fraud over the sale of 12 AgustaWestland helicopters to India and spent 80 days in preventive detention. Mr. Spagnolini faces similar charges. The middlemen were allegedly paid commissions totalling some €56 million through an elaborate system of fake billing using fictitious IT companies based in Mauritius and Tunisia. “No move has been made yet by Indian authorities to arrest any of the Tyagi brothers despite the fact that India has now become a civil party to the trial,” sources said.

The documents in the CBI’s possession indicate a dramatic penetration of India’s defence secrets by outside middlemen, sources in Italy indicated. Several documents recovered from Mr. Haschke and Mr. Gerosa gave the results of all the field trials conducted for the helicopter deal. “Clearly someone on the inside was passing out valuable bits of information to persons outside India’s defence establishment, whether the Air Force or the Ministry of Defence,” the source said. The deal was on the table, scrapped and then revived again because of technical specifications that could not be met by competing parties. This resulted in single vendor situations.

CBI sources told PTI news agency that it was seeking details on Mr. Haschke’s arrest through its embassy in Rome. It also plans to send “letters rogatory” for statements made by those accused currently in Italian custody.

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